Moratorium extended; Sussex County Council defers sign discussion

GEORGETOWN – A moratorium stagnating new applications for billboards and off-premises signs was extended Tuesday by Sussex County Council.

But discussion/dissection of ordinance proposals for amendments to Sussex County’s sign ordinance was placed on hold.

County council by 4-0 vote approved a two-month extension of the moratorium established last September on the acceptance of special-use exception applications for off-premises signs/billboards.

15 SIGN saga june 7

Moments later, council opted to defer resumption of discussion from last week on sign issues in light of the absence of councilman George Cole. R-Ocean View.

Mr. Cole, council’s elder statesman with nearly 30 years on the governing body, has championed the movement for county sign ordinance revision.

Council learned just minutes before the start of Tuesday’s meeting that Mr. Cole would not be in attendance.

Councilwoman Joan Deaver, D-Lewes, suggested that council delay what could be another lengthy discussion on ordinance proposals with Mr. Cole not in attendance.

Councilman Rob Arlett agreed, out of respect for a fellow council colleague.

The issue will be back on the agenda for the June 21 council meeting. Assistant County Attorney Jamie Sharp informed council there will be a PowerPoint presentation.

Discussion on June 7 lasted more than four hours.

Council and staff are going over several ordinance proposals. Those include an initial ordinance introduced by county council in April, an alternative ordinance prepared by local attorney David Hutt who has represented numerous clients in signage-related variance requests before the county’s board of adjustment, and a third alternative tendered by the county’s planning and zoning commission.

In addition, county staff have made comment and recommendation on nearly 50 line items under the microscope.

County council approved the two-month extension of the moratorium the day before it was set to expire, June 15 at the recommendation of County Administrator Todd Lawson.

“Based on the number of meetings that we will have between July and August I would suggest that perhaps we could identify Aug. 15 as the next extension (deadline),” Mr. Lawson said. “That would give us six meetings that are scheduled currently for this county council.”

“We want business owners to get back to work, and do what they do best,” said Mr. Arlett, adding the consensus of conversation he has had with some business owners is “that if we are going do it, let’s do it right. So that if we have to wait another couple weeks or so, I guess that’s OK in that sense.”

County council president Michael H. Vincent, R-Seaford, noted that council can lift the moratorium at any time before the deadline.

Mr. Arlett asked that the moratorium item for potential council action be kept on each week’s meeting agenda.

News Editor Glenn Rolfe can be reached at

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